By John Celock
The Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives on Friday advanced legislation that would allow teachers and school administrators to carry guns.
The legislation, the latest in a series of pro-Second Amendment legislation passed by Show Me State lawmakers, would also prohibit local governments from passing laws that restrict the open carry of firearms and lowers the age for a concealed carry permit. The legislation’s passage sets the stage for a potential battle with Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has vetoed previous attempts by lawmakers to nullify federal gun laws in the state.
Lawmakers said that the legislation was needed in order to prevent another deadly school shooting. Following the deadly December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, state lawmakers across the country started discussing the possibility of arming teachers, including a South Dakota proposal, which would have also allowed janitors and cafeteria workers to be armed.
“When an active shooter comes in and starts mowing down kids like Sandy Hook and we have a teacher stopping it then it’s done it’s job,” one lawmaker said of the proposal during the debate Friday. “I don’t want to think about putting teachers in schools with firearms, but it is the reality of the world we live in.”
Under the terms of the Missouri legislation, teachers and administrators would have the option of going through firearms training to carry a gun. The identities of the faculty who have weapons would not be revealed, allowing them to fight back in the event of a gunman entering the building.
Lawmakers in favor of the bill stressed that the gun-touting faculty would receive firearms training similar to law enforcement officers. Opponents had said that teachers would not be as well trained as a police officer and could cause more harm if they were allowed to carry guns.
“It would shorten the time between the onset of mass murder and the end of this attack,” a supporter said.
Supporters argued that arming teachers would be similar to the federal air marshal program, which has armed undercover officers on flights. A lawmaker reminded his colleagues that there have been no airplane hijackings in the United States since the air marshal program was expanded following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
In terms of the local government section of the bill, lawmakers want to prohibit local leaders from enacting laws to prohibit open carry of guns in their communities. The bill does require though that those openly carrying firearms need to have a license from state officials for closed carry.
The local government section is a growing area of concern for state legislators. Earlier this year, Kansas lawmakers passed legislation that would prohibit local leaders from enacting gun control measures, in response to prohibitions in several cities around the Sunflower State.
Missouri lawmakers have been attempting to concentrate gun policy power in the hands of state government, including passing legislation that would nullify federal gun laws in the state. Passage of a second gun nullification bill this year sets the stage for another battle with Nixon, who successfully vetoed a similar bill last year.
While supporters of the bill defended lowered the concealed carry permit age, citing those between 18 and 21 serving in the military, opponents said there is a difference. The opponents noted that troops receive firearms training that would not be similar to any sort of training given to other teens. One lawmaker said those between 18 and 21 are “still maturing.”
One opponent from St. Louis noted that in his community residents are not looking to see if a gun is registered.
“My constituents don’t care if the gun is licensed or not when it’s in their face,” he said.